In over sixty countries, John has made contributions as a teacher, trainer, project director, writer and a working volunteer involving service, education and sports programs. He feels fortunate that his work, his concerns and passions often align. Over the past three decades he has been drawn to serve in areas noted for their history of violence and religious struggle, as well as to a wide variety of indigenous communities.
For years, John was one of a team who worked to design service programs that encourage mutual respect and cooperation between those of different religions, cultures and nationalities. By shoveling soil and moving bricks in over 40 countries, John, other volunteers and community members built not only clinics, schools and physical structures but bonds of trust and new friendships worldwide.
His work with organizations like the Universal Peace Federation has brought him to areas noted for their history of violence and religious struggle. In those situations, he has helped gather teams of international volunteers who by offering their heartfelt services contribute to the process of healing and reconciliation. Seeing the attitudes of people shift from antagonism to cooperation has been a great source of inspiration in his life.
Living, working, and sharing together, often in difficult situations can help people form deep bonds of trust. Over time, his listening to people’s stories became a major aspect of his work and while it served to fill people’s deep longing to share, it also provided insights on how best to offer needed services to individuals within a community.
For John and others working in a diverse community, personal barriers and misconceptions were often challenged and replaced by a fuller appreciation of life. The author saw how those who held historic resentments would re-examine them in the new brighter light of trust and friendship. Many of the stories found in The Tales of Love and Service: Stories From the Heart share how former antagonists went through a process that helped build mutual respect and trust --- a process that often evolved into lifelong friendship.
While his work has taken the author to many beautiful areas of the world, he also found himself exposed to some of life’s on-going hardships. His work in refugee camps, war zones, in cities during times of unrest and riots, as well doing post disaster relief were part of the background that adds to grit to his stories. Through such work, John’s sense of urgency grew as he saw the importance of promoting an environment conducive to peace, health, and mutual well-being. This urgency often found voice in his writings and his activities.
Over time, John became increasingly aware of the power of the spirit and how cooperation focused on a higher purpose can empower us to achieve good, even great things. This reality was confirmed to him numerous times in various ways as he often experienced how the impossible became possible.
John’s appreciation of service grew as he invested years and multiple trips in and out of nations. Trinidad and Tobago provided a good example of effective cooperation as the international volunteers of the RYS and their local partner, the Rose Foundation, strove to embody inspired selfless service. Through their aligned efforts they combined to talk, share, and work with local gang leaders and community members on mutual concerns. Through years of continued effort, they found and created various ways to improve safety, education, economic conditions, and the overall challenges that confront the family.
In Uganda, despite contracting malaria, John was able to be part of efforts to improve economic security as well as encourage former rebels (returnees) to put down their guns. He saw local citizens using local resources in environmentally sound ways, increase the efficiency of their labor and offer a generous forgiving heart to the former rebels who had deserted their community.
John sought to learn from those connected to the root of their culture and managed to spend time with indigenous people in 5 continents. Life experiences, while living in rather isolated Garifuna villages showed that a lack of running water, electricity, vehicles, or phones did not prevent children from finding new ways to grow and experience life.
Encounters in indigenous communities included sharing with shamans, community leaders as well the displaced and nearly broken. These encounters provided him with an understanding of the unique and varied challenges that many indigenous individuals and communities face. As an author, some of John’s stories and articles offer the reader a way to understand and contribute to improving those situations.
The author learned much from his many trips to India. To him, feeling the painful grip of Lady Poverty was almost overwhelming and he notes how situations are often aggravated by barriers related to religion and caste. Yet, the author was able to see a willingness of many of India’s young people to stand up and be a voice for promoting positive change and greater cooperation. This is part of the story that the author wants to increasingly see for a sake of the sub-continent’s future.
In his work in the Mid-East, the currents of religious tension can and often do turn violent, but they also are many anxious to create pathways for greater cooperation. In such struggles, the author wants to continue to encourage reconciliation and sees the offering of selfless service as a necessary pathway on that road to a brighter future.
John has felt a growing need to tell the stories of the voiceless as well as those who have become champions of love and service. He sees this as a way to better prepare the next generation, as they step up to meet the challenges that lay ahead. Tales of Love and Service: Stories From the Heart is his first attempt in a book to give them expression.
This video below shares the spirit and service of the multi-cultural, interreligious service projects that were the primary source of the stories in the book, Tales of Love and Service: Stories of the Heart.
The Storyteller in our book, known as the Grandfather, is based on the life of John W. Gehring. He, along with numerous others share throughout this video the spirit of love and service they experienced in their work throughout the world .
The author encourages those that want to understand the impact of loving service to watch the video as it shows the joy of working together for the sake of others. It is a visible proof that the Source of Love is much greater than our differences.